I've been scanning through the web, looking for some ideas and theories about computational modules of human behavior and personality, but so far all I could find regards to procedural programs and cognitive modules (which are tending towards learning and decision making, and not personality modeling).

What I mean by computational frameworks for human behavior is not some Java implementation of categorization of a given person, which are limited to the model constraints and specific domains, but high-level object oriented abstraction of the whole human personality. As Chris Crawford describes the difference:

"A character is to a real human being as a story is to life, ... story is a simplification and a clarification of life. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, where life just bounces along endlessly."

For example, a system called "The AntiBigData" takes some set of personality traits (which must adhere to predefined interfaces), and access the class package of "Humor", which associates to some repository of let say 100 MB of anecdotes, and sorts the repository by likeliness of the given personality traits.

Of course, this system would have infinite potential of complexity and domain, and maybe developed in an Agile fashion, but I am surprised I couldn't find information about academic formalization of relevant topics.

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    $\begingroup$ This question has a good core, but the CS terminology is a bit confusing--we're not computer scientists, after all. The general concept in cogsci is 'cognitive architecture', so you might want to look into that and match concepts. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a psychology student, currently working in IT industry (mainly Java), and I'm well aware of your idea, having thought about it sometimes. I've never came across something like what you wanted, but I'd say it'd be complex as f***. $\endgroup$
    – Will Lp
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @WillP ACT-R is a notable cognitive architecture, if you want to have a go. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristianHummeluhr thanks! I'll check it out $\endgroup$
    – Will Lp
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


Cognitive Architectures

The description most closely matches the concept of a cognitive architecture. Whereas I would say most empirical cognitive science focuses on isolating cognitive functions or behavioral substrates, cognitive architectures are relatively unique because they attempt to run bottom-up simulations of interdependent sets of cognitive functions.

Example: ACT-R framework

An influential example of a cognitive architecture is Carnegie Mellon's Adaptive Control of Thought—Rational (ACT-R), which is a hybrid cognitive architecture--meaning it comprises both symbolic pattern recognition and underlying processes such as utility functions. The ACT-R framework distinguishes between modules (perceptual-motor and memory), buffers for accessing memory, and pattern recognition between buffer states and perceptual-motor production.

ACT-R model

ACT-R model diagram

ACT-R usage

ACT-R allows researchers to obtain standard quantities like response times and accuracy on a very large amount of tasks. (Apparently it now also affords obtaining fMRI data, but I am not at all familiar with this.) It has been used to model virtually every kind of behavior and cognitive function, and there is little point in giving specific examples. The ACT-R website's publications section features a staggering amount of well-categorized articles, if you want to know more, but since you wanted to know about personality in particular, it merits pointing out that it does include individual differences.

ACT-R methodology


Cognitive architectures are an exciting development that promise to solve the dirty little secret of most cognitive science: while we are developing increasingly powerful explanations for isolated cognitive functions and behaviors, there was no way to bridge most of these models, or to combine them into a model of a coherent "mind" (i.e., a cause of behavior). While they are not the only player in that game (e.g., embodied cognition and dynamical systems), the concept of cognitive architecture, unlike competing concepts, has the advantage of being immediately compatible with the cognitive literature, and very amenable to digital simulation.


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